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First Books

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2009 at 4:50 pm

The Philippines has been under Spanish rule for more than 300 years. The Spanish conquistadores claimed the archipelago in the name of their king, and laid the foundation of the Spanish administration in the Philippines. They brought their culture with them and influenced the Filipino way life in every facets: economic, social, religious, and cultural. (Agoncillo, 196o)


The early friars helped in the conquest  of the country, and propagated Christianity. Thus,  most of the first printed books in the country have been written or translated by the friars, and are greatly influenced by religion.

Way before the Spaniards’ coming, the ancient Filipinos had both oral and written literature.  This  consisted of:

  1. mito (myth), which told different versions about the creation of the world;
  2. alamat (legend), which told the origin of  man, animals, plants, and places ;
  3. awit (songs), sung for both everyday life and special occasions;
  4. salawikain (proverbs), which were wise sayings and adages;
  5. bugtong (riddles), which consisted of puzzles presented in creative language.

Among their songs were: talindaw (boat songs), indulanin (street songs), diyuna (revelry songs), tagumpay (war songs), uyayi (also oyayi, lullabies), tagulaylay (songs for the dead), ihiman (wedding songs) and tigpasin (rowing songs). (Lacsamana, 1987)

They had passed this down for generations through retelling and the specimens of those which survived were written on barks of certain trees and on the inner surface of the bamboo, through a pointed pieces of sticks or iron. These pens they called sipol.

Unfortunately, most parts of this rich literature were unpreserved and were lost. With the destruction of Filipino manuscripsts by early Spanish missionaries, the country followed the Spanish pattern. (Agoncillo, 1960).

The first missionaries were introduced the art of prinitng to some talented Filipinos. Thus, the first books in the country were those printed and published only in the Spanish times. . What were these books?

1.) In 1593, Doctrina Cristiana, the first religious book , was published in the Philippines through a xylograph. Padre Juan de Plasencia, O.P. and Padre Domingo de Nievo, O.P.  authored the book, which contained Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Credo, Regina Caeli, The Ten Commandments, The Seven Mortal Sins, Confession and Catechism. The book was written in Spanish and Tagalog. Juan de Vera, a Filipino Chinese mestizo printed Doctrina Christiana in Tagalog.


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2.) Nuestra Seคora del Rosario , the second book published in 1602 was written in Tagalog by a Dominican Padre Blancas de San Jose, who also introduced typography. This contained the a few known saints’ biographies, novenas, and responses to frequently asked questions on religion. (Panganiban, 1987). Lerning Tagalog easily, Blancas printed another book, Arte y Reglas de la Lengua Tagala in 1610 with the help of Tomas Pinpin, who became known as the “Prince of Filipino Printers. Under the direction of Blancas de San Jose, Pinpin authored a book on that same year: Librong Pagaaralan nang manga Tagalog nang uicang Castilla. (Agoncillo, 1960)

3.) In 1703 and 1712, Padre Antonio de Borja translated the first novel in Filipino, and Padre Augustin Mejia in Ilokano.  The novel was originally written in Greek and was based on a Bible story. This was Barlaan at Josaphat.

4.) Pasyon, which is sung during the celebration of Mahal na Araw (Holy Week) was written in Tagalog by: Gaspar Aquino de Belen in 1704, Don Luis Guian in 1750, Padre Mariano Pilapil in 1814, and Padre Ancieto dela Merced in 1856. According to critics,  dela Merced’s version of Pasyon is the most well-written among the four.  It consisted of 8 syllables in each stanza:

Iyong itulot sa amin

Diyos amang maawain

Mangyaring aming dalhin

Hirap sakit at hilahil

Ng Ama naming giliw.

5.) Urbana at Felisa , written by Padre Modesto de Castro in the 19th century, was considered as one of the most popular and well-read book during the Spanish regime. Urbana at Felisa is composed of a collection of letters (34 letters) or correspondence between the siblings. Urbana, the younger sister is studying in one of the colleges in Manila while Felisa remained in the province.  In  the letters Felisa sends to her sister, she advises the right and proper way of conducting herself, and in accordance with the Christian teaching:

Sa Katungkulan sa Bayan

Sa Pagpasok sa Paaralan

Ang Pakikipagkaibigan

Sa Pakikipagkapwa Tao

Ang Salitaan

Paglagay sa Estado

6.) In 1865, Padre Mariano Sevilla,  a Filipino priest from Tundo wrote Flores de Mayo. This is based on Italian Mazzanelli’s  “Misa de Magggio” or “Buwan ng Mayo” . Ang mga Dalit Kay Maria are  made up of  songs praising and honoring the Mary, Virgin Mother.  It became customary to sing these during processions every month of May in different places in the Philippines, such as Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, Cavite, Batangas and Quezon.


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